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Seven gunned down in US varsity
Ashish Kumar Sen writes from Washington

A gunman dressed in black emerged from behind a curtain at a lecture hall at Northern Illinois University (NIU) on Thursday and shot 21 persons, seven of them fatally, before killing himself. The university confirmed that the shooter was an NIU graduate student in sociology in the spring of 2007 but was not currently enrolled.

At a press conference held on the NIU campus after the incident, university president John Peters said: “Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims and their families. We thank the community for the outpouring of sympathy during this terrible time of tragedy.”

At approximately 3 p.m. a gunman, carrying one shotgun and two handguns, opened fire in Cole Hall on the campus of the university in Dekalb.

“It started and it stopped very, very quickly,” the university’s police chief, Donald Grady, said. “This thing started and ended in a matter of seconds.”

NIU police officers were on the scene in less than two minutes and the gunman was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound a short time later. The police has not released the identity of the gunman.

At this time, there is no known motive.

The shooting sent students into a panic. George Gaynor, another student in the room, described the scene to the campus newspaper Northern Star, calling the scene terrifying and chaotic. “Some girl got hit in the eye; a guy got hit in the leg,” Gaynor said.

“He was quiet. He stood on the stage in the front of the room,” student Sheila Cosgrove told Chicago radio station WBBM, describing him as a lean, tall white man. “I saw him holding the gun and it was huge. I thought it was fake, and then I realised he was actually shooting at people, and I got down.”

The 113-year-old school is 65 miles west of downtown Chicago and has an enrollment of more than 25,000. The campus covers 755 acres.

The NIU shooting comes 10 months after 32 students and staff were shot by a student at Virginia Tech University in one of the worst shootings ever at a US school. It is also the fourth shooting at an American education institution within a week.

Last Friday, a woman shot dead two fellow students before killing herself at Louisiana Technical College in Baton Rouge. In Memphis, Tennessee, a 17-year-old is accused of shooting and critically wounding a student on Monday, and a 15-year-old was shot at a junior high school in California on Tuesday.

NIU was closed for one day during final exam week in December after campus police found threats, including racial slurs and references to the April 16 shootings earlier in the year at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg scrawled on a bathroom wall in a dormitory.

All classes were canceled on Thursday night and the campus was closed on Friday. All athletic events were canceled through Sunday. Students were urged to call their parents “as soon as possible” and were offered counselling at any residence hall, according to the school website.



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